WEST PALM BEACH — Estimated unemployment rates in the western Palm Beach County communities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay all dropped lower than previous estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), according to the latest five-year estimates just released.
The latest five-year estimates are for 2016 – 2020. They place South Bay with the lowest unemployment rate among the three communities at 10.7 percent. Belle Glade follows South Bay at 13.3 percent. Pahokee has the highest unemployment rate at 23.8 percent.
Previous estimates for 2011 – 2015 ranked South Bay with the lowest unemployment rate at 17.3 percent, Belle Glade at 18.1 percent, and Pahokee at 34.2 percent.
The ACS estimates unemployment rates in cities with populations under 25,000 and updates them annually. Population in the three communities is too small to be included in monthly releases of unemployment statistics from the Bureau of Workforce Statistics & Economic Research at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). The ACS data are available at: CP03: COMPARATIVE ECONOMIC... - Census Bureau Table
“While the area still faces many challenges, significant progress has been achieved in working together with our community partners to increase employment and economic growth in the Glades communities,” said Julia Dattolo, President and CEO of CareerSource Palm Beach County, the nonprofit organization chartered by the state to lead workforce development in the county.
During the past five program years, CareerSource Palm Beach County has assisted residents in finding employment/reemployment (full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary) in the Glades communities with salaries from these jobs creating $112 million in annual wages. Also during this time, CareerSource awarded $1.7 million in grants to area businesses and employees for training and educational assistance.
“The Glades communities’ economy is largely based on agriculture. While serving a vital role as a significant source of the nation’s winter food supply, employment is mostly seasonal. The area needs a stronger and more diversified economy,” said Charles Duval, CareerSource Palm Beach County Associate Vice President, who heads operations in the west county communities and is presenting more information on this topic at tonight’s Belle Glade city commission meeting.
CareerSource works in partnership with the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County (BDB) to attract, retain, and help businesses expand in the area. CareerSource provides comprehensive labor market information/analysis, job candidate sourcing, training grants and placement support.
The strength and effectiveness of this partnership was recognized this year by the Florida Economic Council’s Deal of the Year Award for the recruitment of FinFrock, a major precast concrete manufacturer, to Belle Glade. This project will create more than 200 jobs and bring a $242 million economic impact to the Glades communities.
CareerSource was at the table during negotiations to bring FinFrock to the Glades and has held job fairs to fill these positions and provide training grants to improve job skills/local employment opportunities.
A year later FinFrock has established itself in the Glades and is already expanding to its next level and hiring more positions.
Another recent hiring event was held for U.S. Sugar, Finfrock, Okeelanta, the cities of South Bay and Belle Glade, the Palm Beach County School District and several other employers participating in the city of Pahokee’s job fair. The Pahokee Marina is expected to reopen with 25 jobs to fill.
Job fairs coming up include:
• Healthcare Careers Expo: Tues. Sept. 27, South Fla. Fairgrounds (in-person and virtual)
• Securing Our Future Event: Wed. Sept. 28, PBC Convention Center
• Public Safety Job Fair: Fri. Oct. 7, Palm Beach State College, Lake Worth Campus.
• Hospitality & Retail Job Fair, Thurs. Oct. 20, WPB Mandel Library
• Paychecks for Patriots Job Fair for Veterans, Wed., Nov. 9, Hilton PBI Airport
• Glades Job Fair & Food Giveaway, Wed. Nov. 16, Belle Glade Library & Civic Center
More information on these events will be available at www.careersourcepbc.com.
Thanks to collaborative partnerships, momentum is building for more potential companies coming to the Glades communities and improving/diversifying the economy in the area.
For example, CareerSource and the BDB have been involved in discussions concerning the feasibility of an 850-acre Inland Logistics Center for materials distribution, warehousing, assembly and light manufacturing. The proposed location in the Glades region would alleviate congestion along coastal highways by moving cargo onto rail lines and stimulate Palm Beach County’s economy by providing jobs and developing a huge tract of rural land. The project would be within 100 miles of three seaports, four international airports and three railroads with an abundance of undeveloped land – all assets that would help attract even more commerce, increase employment and economic development, and foster new investment in the area from business and industry.
CareerSource’s West Career Center, located in Belle Glade at 1085 S. Main St., offers virtual and in-person job fairs, classes and facilities for job searches, grants for job skills training for those who qualify, career development and consulting – at no cost. The organization also provides services to help build and sustain businesses. CareerSource absorbs the cost of most of these services including recruitment, assessments, and referrals of qualified job candidates; space and staff assistance for screening/interviewing candidates; and grants for training employees. More information is available at www.careersourcepbc.com.